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Bullet grain/velocity choices? new 357 owner.

Discussion in 'Handguns' started by chriscoobs, Jun 27, 2008.

    chriscoobs Empty Pockets

    Hello, i am new to hand guns and looking for some information regarding hand gun ammunition. I recently picked up a Ruger gp100 6". 357 magnum. I wanted a well built revolver for my first gun and i think the Ruger fits the criteria perfectly for me, I have shot it several times at the range and love it so far. I am looking for reccomendations regarding ammunition for this gun. I am somewhat confused by differences in bullet velocities/ grain weight and the relationship between the two, if there is somewhere online somone could point me to for more information i would really appriciate it. I am just looking for more information to help me make the best choice for picking the right ammo. thanks in advance.

    inthedark Empty Pockets

    Generally, the lighter the bullet (lower grain count) the faster the velocity, it's the laws of physics. A heavier bullet will penetrate more, a faster bullet will have less drop (not really noticable at handgun distances)

    There's some info here, the numbers aren't always exact due to different barrel lengths, guns, etc.

    For lower power rounds, there might be an advantage for a faster round to help with hollowpoint expansion, but for a powerful round like a .357 you're proabably way above that minimum no matter what weight you select. I use anywhere from a 125 grain to 158 grain. Really there's not a whole lot of difference between the two, most of the time I just go for the cheapest for target shooting, except for one gun. I do have a S&W Model 19 that I only use 158 grain. The reason is (or so I've heard) because it really wasn't designed to handle the light and fast magnum loads that are in common use today, it was designed for the heavier, slower bullets. The lighter loads cause more erosion of the forcing cone due to the short length of the bullet. I'm sure it would handle a 125 grain with no problem, but I just do it to be on the safe side. For a GP100, it's built like a tank, so I wouldn't even worry about that.

    0dBm Loaded Pockets

    Generally, the consumer has traditionally associated lighter bullet weights with higher velocity. Velocity has more to do with the amount of powder that is loaded in the cartridge casing. A 158-grain bullet can be propelled as fast as any other bullet weight given the same cartridge. Heavier bullets will have the effect of more felt recoil because of the greater mass that is being pushed out of the barrel.

    The 1980s FBI Wound Ballistics Workshop had demonstrated that heavier bullets with lower a expansion coefficient (full metal jacket, or conical, hard cast lead) and sub-magnum velocities do indeed have a longer, narrower wound channel in ballistic gelatin, however the stretch cavity is also narrower. Lighter weight bullets with a higher expansion coefficient (hollow point with a semi-jacket encasement of softer lead and other constituent compounds to control fragmentation) propelled at the magnum velocities have a shorter wound channel but with larger stretch cavities in the same medium. The stretch cavities is purported to be a large contributor to the myth of "stopping power."

    For many years, those two schools of thought were in diametrical opposition. In modern loadings, the big manufacturers have produced a variant of each of those two concepts where certain loadings have ventured into a hybrids of the two schools. An example is the use of lighter weight bullets at modest velocities for target applications and heavier weight projectiles at quite high velocities (achievable with modern powders) for hunting applications wherein greater penetration is required.

    There is a tremendous amount of differences between a 125 and a 158 grain bullet. The longer, heavier bullet forces a longer overall cartridge case. Modern large manufacturers use the 158-grain bullet in far fewer loadings today for a number or reasons among which is the liability issue with overpenetration in self defense scenarios. The 125 grain bullet is one of the most popular in .357 Magnum because it likely has been the most versatile. It is light enough so that it can be loaded to magnum velocities to achieve greater expansion when used with shorter barrel lengths and heavy enough to maintain a relatively flat trajectory. The 158-grain bullet sees more application in longer barrel hunting handguns as well as those used in metallic silhouette sport shooting events. When many police agencies switched to semi-automatic pistols in the mid 80s due to a desire to have handguns with more cartridge capacity (thus the wide use of 9mm), many street officers that gave up their 4-inch barreled .357 Magnum revolvers pined for the power of the mighty .357. The culmination is the increasingly wide use of the 125-grain .357 Sig cartridge that is close to the theoretical ballistics of the .357 Magnum.

    The late, great Bill Jordan was instrumental in the development of the Smith and Wesson blued Model 19 K-frame .357 Combat Model 4-inch .357 Magnum revolver. It was a direct rival to the exquisite 4-inch blued Colt Python .357 Magnum revolver. The Model 19 was designed with the use of the 145-grain conical soft lead bullet propelled at 1325 feet per second (fps). While certainly lighter than the 158-grain bullet, it is certainly heavier that 125 grains. The intrinsic pitfall with the Model 19 is not that I was NOT designed FOR the lighter, faster bullets, but because the smaller frame cannot endure the long-term repeated use of magnum cartridges of ANY weight since it was Bill Jordan's idea that this was to be carried for longer periods due to to the lighter weight vice shot more frequently. This was the answer to the basic complaint that the heavier S&W N-frame Model 27 was simply a brute to carry for sustained periods.

    A Ruger GP-100 is a very robust pistol that can endure many thousands of rounds of Magnum velocity ammunition before showing even a hint of wear. It's heavier drop-forged barrel and cylinder certainly is more durable than the Model 19's, however with the durability comes the disadvantage of additional weight that rival the old S&W Model 27. Nontheless, it will serve you well for many years in a variety of applications using a multitude of bullet weights loaded to many different velocities.

    Smith357 Empty Pockets

    There are basically two schools of thought that have been gone over already, the light bullet moving very fast or the heavy bullet moving slow. Since you have a Ruger which is just about the most robust revolver made you have a third option. You can load a heavy bullet going very fast. I load 180 grain Hornady XTPs with 15 grains of 4227 and get 1200 fps out of my 6" Ruger revolver and about 1650 fps from my carbines.
    Never use a load like this in any Colt of S&W.